Predict Pregnancy Complications

Scientists can predict which women will have serious pregnancy complications , Found a way to predict whether women may experience major pregnancy difficulties.

According to a new study, women who will develop potentially life-threatening diseases during pregnancy can be diagnosed early by testing hormone levels in the placenta.

Around one out of every ten pregnant women suffers from a pregnancy ailment. Almost all of the mother’s organ systems must change their function during pregnancy in order for the baby to grow. Fetal growth restriction, foetal overgrowth, gestational diabetes, and preeclampsia — a life-threatening high blood pressure in the mother – can all occur if the mother’s body is unable to adjust to the growing kid.

Many of these difficulties cause difficult labours for women, requiring greater medical intervention, as well as long-term issues for the baby, such as diabetes, heart disease, and obesity.

Pregnancy disorders are typically identified in the second or third trimester of pregnancy, when they have already had a significant influence on the mother’s and baby’s health. The existing diagnostic approaches for pregnancy problems are insufficiently sensitive and reliable to identify all at-risk pregnancies.Scientists have now developed a method to monitor hormone levels in the placenta in order to predict which women may experience major pregnancy issues.

Dr. Amanda N. Sferruzzi-Perri, a Fellow of St John’s College, University of Cambridge, is the lead author of a new research published today in Nature Communications Biology. She directs a lab in the Department of Physiology, Development, and Neuroscience.

“The female body is exceptional, and a pregnant woman’s body must remodel practically every single organ system from the moment of conception so that the foetus can develop,” the doctors said. The foetus requires nutrition and oxygen to grow, thus the mother’s metabolism and circulatory system must adapt to meet these needs.

“We know that the placenta is responsible for many of the changes in a woman’s body during pregnancy, and our research discovered that placental hormone biomarkers can predict which women will have pregnancy difficulties. We discovered that these biomarkers are detectable as early as the first trimester of pregnancy; often, women are diagnosed with problems in the second or third trimester, when issues may have had had major effects for the mother’s and her developing baby’s health.

“This is a significant finding because pregnancy illnesses afflict around one out of every ten pregnant women and are sometimes discovered too late, when the issues have already wreaked havoc on the mother’s health and foetal development.”

The placenta is a biologically complex organ. It develops and expands from the fertilised egg and adheres to the uterine wall. It permits nutrition and oxygen to pass from the mother to the baby while also removing foetal waste. The placenta, despite its importance, is a misunderstood organ that is notoriously difficult to research in pregnant women. Its capacity to function properly, however, is critical since it has an impact on pregnancy outcomes as well as the mother’s and child’s long-term health.

During pregnancy, the placenta develops and connects the developing baby to the mother. For growing newborns, it acts as the lungs, kidneys, stomach, and liver, transporting oxygen and nutrition to the foetus while also secreting hormones and removing waste.

The proteins produced by the placenta were compared to blood samples from women who had uneventful pregnancies and those who acquired gestational diabetes using mice models. The researchers devised novel ways for isolating and studying the endocrine cells in the mouse placenta, which secrete hormones throughout pregnancy.

They created a complete map of proteins in the mystery organ by profiling the placenta to identify the hormones that are produced. Researchers compared the mouse model map of hormone proteins from the placenta to information from studies of the human placenta and pregnancy outcomes, and found a lot of biological commonality.

“We discovered that roughly a third of the proteins we identified changed in women during pregnancies with disorders,” Dr. Sferruzzi-Perri stated. We also discovered that abnormal levels of hormones were present in the mother’s blood as early as the first trimester – week 12 of pregnancy – in women who developed gestational diabetes, a pregnancy complication usually diagnosed at 24-28 weeks, using a small study to see if these placental proteins have any clinical value.

“We also discovered numerous distinct transcription factors — proteins within the cell that switch on or off genes – that are likely to regulate placental hormone synthesis, which has crucial implications for understanding how we may enhance pregnancy outcomes.”

The researchers used a study that monitored pregnancy outcomes in women at Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge to see if these genetic biomarkers could be detected during pregnancy. They discovered that these biomarkers were present in early prenatal blood tests, which could lead to an earlier diagnosis of problems and faster treatment.

“This pregnancy-induced form of diabetes causes faster growth of the baby and problems at the time of delivery,” said Dr Claire Meek, a diabetes in pregnancy physician and researcher at Addenbrooke’s. Unfortunately, by the time they are diagnosed at 28 weeks, some women already exhibit indicators of a large baby. This new test may be able to detect gestational diabetes earlier in pregnancy, allowing for disease prevention or protection of mothers and newborns from the most dangerous complications.”

“This discovery brings new optimism that a greater knowledge of the placenta will result in safer, healthier pregnancies for moms and babies,” Dr. Sferruzzi-Perri stated. Our team is now evaluating whether these findings may improve clinical treatment in the future, either by allowing for earlier identification or by providing novel ways to treat pregnancy issues by targeting the placenta.”


Napso, T., Zhao, X., Lligoña, M.I. et al. Placental secretome characterization identifies candidates for pregnancy complications. Commun Biol 4, 701 (2021).

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